Talking About Joy and Life After Louis C.K.
Posted May 18, 2018 7:08 p.m. EDT
The name of Tig Notaro’s new Netflix comedy special, “Happy to Be Here,” could be taken as sarcasm given her ups and downs over the last year. Notaro made headlines last fall for swinging hard at her most famous champion, Louis C.K., in an episode of her lauded Amazon series, “One Mississippi.” It featured a male boss masturbating in front of a female underling, the very act that Louis C.K., an executive producer of the show, would end up being accused of and admitting to.
Then in January, her show was canceled. Yet Notaro, who came to fame for mining her bilateral breast-cancer diagnosis for humor, and then baring her chest, post-double mastectomy, onstage, says “Happy to Be Here,” due Tuesday, is a genuine celebration of newfound joy.
She spoke with me this week by phone from her home in Los Angeles, which she shares with her wife, Stephanie Allynne, and their twin boys, who are nearly 2. Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.
Q: There’s a real sweetness to this special. I was struck that there was no mention of #MeToo, which was very fresh when the special was filmed. Was that a conscious choice?
A: It came from my life and my marriage and my children and my good health. It was just a very personal joy that inspired it. Obviously I’m aware of and have been speaking out about events going on in the world outside of my personal life. I consider “Happy to Be Here” the final piece of a trilogy. When I released “Live” [her 2012 special], I was right in the middle of a lot of physical and emotional pain. “Boyish Girl Interrupted”  was me crawling out of the rubble, trying to get footing in the world, getting together with Steph and coming to terms with my body. “Happy to Be Here” is one of the first things I say onstage. And I am happier than I’ve ever been.
Q: There was a real outcry after “One Mississippi” was canceled. Are there any chances of it being revived?
A: We would have very gladly done another season if given a chance. There’s also something really nice about moving on from a show that had been tied to such a negative person who was producing it, even though before the pilot was shot, I was trying to distance myself from him. It was certainly like, “Oh that’s a bummer,” but it was also a relief.
Q: Any chances of doing another show?
A: I just want to do things that come naturally and feel good. I don’t want to be, “Ugh, I want to get another show out there.” I don’t feel that way at all. My wife, Stephanie, and I really love working together; we’ve been developing and writing other projects. We have one particular very, very big project that should be announced any second. [The project they are writing, “Hail to the Chief,” a forthcoming Netflix film starring Jennifer Aniston as the president and Notaro as her wife, the first lady, was announced Friday.]
Q: Regarding that negative person — Louis C.K. — how did it affect things at Amazon?
A: He wasn’t involved, but his name was on it. That brought a lot of power, even if he wasn’t working on it day to day. His people were involved day to day. I do want to give credit to Amazon. Amazon let us make exactly the show we wanted to make.
Q: Any examples of how that power was exerted?
A: I don’t want to go much into it. But one of most powerful people in comedy was executive producer on the show, and the networks and studios were excited to have him. I meanwhile had found out he’s not who I thought he was, and so I wanted that separation.
Q: You played a prominent role in bringing forth revelations about Louis C.K.’s misbehavior with women, both on your show and in subsequent interviews. What is your opinion of what happened to him and how the #MeToo movement unfolded?
A: We were in production on a TV show that was trying to crack that open and have that discussion and have the light shining on this behavior. Nobody in the “One Mississippi” writers’ room thought for a second that this was being teed up at the same time as this huge movement was about to rear its head. We were shocked, and we were elated. I hope it continues. There are different signs that this is not stopping. I don’t think that anger and frustration and those feelings can go away. I hope they don’t. The attention and support for the victims needs to be continued, more than people worried about these abusers and what’s next for them, how are they going to move on — shut up.
Q: What do you make of talk about if or how these disgraced men should come back?
A: You know what? If any of these people come back, I would say, “I can’t wait to see who is actually going to support them.” That is going to be the glaring horror. Who is going to be, like, “This is a pressing issue, and we need to get them back?” If a janitor was so great at cleaning the building but also tended to masturbate in front of people, would the people at that building be like, “Yes, he masturbated, but I’ve never seen anyone clean so thoroughly, and I was just wondering when he’s going to get his job back, he’s so good at it.” No, it would be, “That’s not acceptable.” It’s fame and power that people are blinded by.
Q: Do you see yourself as having played a significant role in bringing his misdeeds to light? Did you get support afterward?
A: No, I think it’s just having knowledge that there’s an abusive person, and I knew several people in that article. They’re friends of mine, and I know the utter hell — utter hell — they’ve been put through. I don’t need public support and I’m not doing it for that, but I did get private texts and emails from people.
Q: How, from your point of view, has the comedy scene embraced or pushed back against #MeToo?
A: Every time I turn around I’m surprised. You think somebody is the most progressive, powerful person and then they’re like: “Well, this guy didn’t really do much. It’s not Harvey Weinstein.” Yes, but put yourself in the mindset of somebody walking around masturbating in front of people. Who is that? Who is that person doing this? One of the people that really has impressed me — and it’s not like I’m discovering an unknown talent — is Samantha Bee. She’s an unwavering voice that I hope doesn’t go away.
Q: One of the things we have heard from some of the women who came forth about what happened to them with Louis C.K. was how little the comedy world supported them, with you being a notable exception. Why do you think that was?
A: I think people are friends with him and know he might be back. I think that’s an unfortunate thing that controls people.